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High Blood Pressure

This section focuses on the subject of high blood pressure.

The Best & Worst Foods to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Find out how to control high blood pressure naturally, including with high blood pressure foods to eat. Also, limit or avoid foods that raise blood pressure.

The Best & Worst Foods to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Medically known as hypertension, high blood pressure is when the heart forcefully pumps blood into the arteries. The force increases the pressure against the blood vessels.

If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to atherosclerosis, kidney disease, stroke, and heart failure. However, many contributing factors of high blood pressure are modifiable and within control.

Controlling high blood pressure naturally can be achieved through a hypertension diet, regular exercise, and smoking cessation. Losing and maintaining weight can help lower blood pressure, too.

Find out how to control high blood pressure naturally, including with high blood pressure foods to eat. Also, limit or avoid foods that raise blood pressure.

20 Foods to Eat for High Blood Pressure

When it comes to diets for hypertension, nutrition experts encourage wholesome foods rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other heart-healthy nutrients.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, is regularly named the best high blood pressure diet. It emphasizes a variety of nutritious foods, including fresh produce and low-fat dairy with moderating intake of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.

Fresh Produce: 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

1. All Green, Leafy Vegetables

Romaine lettuce, spinach, and kale are all prime examples and provide essential nutrients and fiber. Select fresh or frozen veggies when possible, as canned and frozen varieties may contain added salt.

2. Broccoli

A part of the cabbage family, broccoli is loaded with nutrients without amplifying total calories. Not only is broccoli budget-friendly, but highly versatile. Snack on broccoli stalks with hummus, steam and serve as a side, or bulk up entrees.

3. Sweet Potatoes

Though considered a starchy vegetable, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients while offering a little natural sweetness. They also provide high amounts of potassium, an essential mineral and electrolyte that has a documented role in hypertension prevention.

4. Apples

"An apple a day might keep blood pressure at bay…"

Apples are a healthful fruit loaded with fiber, a plant component proven to support heart health and lower blood pressure. Their ability to increase uric acid in the blood may contribute to high antioxidant levels, ultimately protecting blood vessels from damage.

5. Bananas

Bananas are much more than monkey business, as daily consumption can help to lower blood pressure thanks to their potassium content.

6. Tomatoes

Lycopene, a naturally-occurring compound found in tomatoes that provide its red color, may also reduce systolic pressure. This is the pressure read first on a blood pressure reading.

Whole Grains: 6 to 8 servings daily

7. Whole Wheat Pasta

Choose wheat over white pasta for added nutrients and fiber. One serving is a ½ cup of cooked pasta. Though pasta is naturally low in fat, be mindful of added sauces that may also be high in salt content.

8. Oats

Inexpensive and versatile, oats are a great contributor to a well-balanced diet. Enjoy a hearty bowl of overnight oatmeal or throw whole or ground oats into baked products for added fiber and nutrients.

9. Brown Rice

Like pasta, a serving size is a half-cup of cooked rice. Switching from white to brown rice further boosts nutrients and fiber as well as potentially reducing the overall risk of high blood pressure.

Lean Proteins: 6 or fewer servings daily

10. Chicken

Lean chicken breasts or tenders provides ample amounts of protein without a tremendous amount of calories. Stray away from fried and breaded forms to eliminate unwanted calories from fat.

11. Turkey

Like chicken, go away with or limit fried turkey products. Pick fresh deli turkey from a butcher, as prepackaged deli meats are oftentimes preserved with high amounts of sodium.

12. Beef

Though beef does, in fact, contain the misrepresented saturated fat, it also offers rich sources of iron and protein. When consuming beef products, aim for the lean and fresh cuts.

13. Fish

Fish and shellfish are an excellent source of lean protein, thus having great potential to facilitate weight loss. Fatty fish such as herring, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are also noteworthy related to their omega-3 fatty acid content.

Dairy Products: 2 to 3 servings daily

14. Milk

Despite the dairy debate regarding nonfat versus whole milk, milk is an exceptional source of calcium. Along with bone health, calcium may have a positive impact on blood pressure.

15. Yogurt

Lean towards a plain Greek yogurt to minimize sugar and maximize protein. Greek yogurt is a blank canvas for fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds. It can be used in place of sour cream or mayonnaise for a lighter tuna or chicken salad, too.

16. Cheese

Calcium-containing cheese offers heart-protective benefits, especially in moderated amounts. When choosing cheese, try aiming for part-skim products without added salt.

Fats and Oils: 2 to 3 servings daily

17. Olive Oil

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, a type of fat known to support heart health. It can control blood sugars, too. Monounsaturated fats are also found in other seed and vegetable oils.

Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes: 4 to 5 servings weekly

18. Nuts

Nuts such as walnuts and pecans are rich sources of healthy fats. It is important, though, to keep portions limited to a small palm-full. All nut varieties are energy-dense and offer heavy amounts of calories.

19. Beans

Black, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and other bean varieties serve as a vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein source. Their high content of fiber, potassium, and magnesium may help reduce blood pressure.

20. Seeds

Like seed oils, their respected whole form also contains healthy fats. Omega-3 loaded chia seeds have also been shown to be cardioprotective by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. Throw seeds onto salads for extra crunch, mix into smoothies, or simply munch on their own!

10 Foods to Avoid with High Blood Pressure

To further reduce high blood pressure naturally, diet recommendations include limiting foods rich in salt and sugar.

As a general rule, sodium intake is recommended to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. On the Nutrition Facts label, look at the Percent Daily Value (%DV). A 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is low while 20% DV is considered high.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a maximum added sugar intake of 38 grams, or 9 teaspoons, for men. Women should limit added sugar intake to 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day for women.

Reduce products loaded with added sugars, as they essentially offer nothing more than calories and contribute to weight gain. What’s more, overweight and obese individuals have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

So limit the salt shaker and these high sodium foods that can increase blood pressure. Reducing the intake of those rich in added sugar.

1. Canned Beans

Canned beans can be loaded with sodium for preservation purposes. If purchasing canned beans, rinsing the beans with a colander and water can help wash away most of the salt.

2. Premade Soups

Despite the promotion of nutritious veggies, soups can be loaded with salt and sodium. And unlike canned beans, soups cannot be rinsed to reduce salt content. When choosing soups, try to find "low in sodium" or "reduced salt" products or take advantage of the nutrition facts label.

3. Canned or Bottled Tomato Products

Tomato sauce, paste, and ketchup are often loaded with salt. Create your own products with fresh or rinsed, canned tomatoes for ingredient and salt control.

4. Packaged and Processed Meats

Prepackaged meats, including breakfast sausages and hot dogs, tend to be loaded with sodium. Deli meats, such as turkey, may also contain added salt. Avoid the hidden sodium by purchasing directly from the butcher rather than in the grocer refrigerated section.

5. Frozen Meals

Meals found in the freezer section - pizzas, chicken strips, and individually frozen entrees - may be loaded with salt. Even the advertised "healthy" meals tend to contain high amounts of sodium.

6. Candy

Candy essentially offers nothing more than calories and sugar while spiking sugar levels. Skip out on sugary suckers and candy bars and opt for naturally-sweetened fruits high in potassium and fiber.

7. Soft Drinks

Soft drinks supply nothing more than sugar and calories the way candy does. A 12-ounce can of soda generally contains more than 9 teaspoons or 39 grams of sugar. That is the entire daily recommended amount for men and two-thirds for women!

8. Pastries

Doughnuts, cakes, and cookies are loaded with sugar and often trans fats. The combination may contribute to weight gain in excessive amounts. Reduce the consumption of these products and keep portions and servings in check.

9. Sauces

Sauces and condiments can be a double whammy when it comes to its composition of both salt and sugar. And ketchup is a notorious condiment for supplying high amounts of both! Offer flavor to foods by spicing it up in the kitchen with fresh herbs and seasonings. Use small portions of dips and sauces, too.

10. Alcohol

Surprisingly, the consumption of alcohol has actually shown to reduce heart disease risk. But only if consumed in moderation. Too much alcohol can result to initial dehydration and long-term weight gain, both consequently increasing blood pressure.

Additional High Blood Pressure Natural Treatment Recommendations

In addition to a high blood pressure diet, include regular exercise, weight management, alcohol moderation, and smoke cessation.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise elevates heart rate and improves blood flow. It also manages weight to lessen the risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.

The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, or exercising for 30 minutes daily most days of the week. Also include strength training in a workout regimen to further support weight maintenance, strong bones, and overall health.

Weight Management

Diet and exercise are top influences of high blood pressure treatment. Controlling them can naturally lead to weight loss, too. This is of great benefit, too, as excess weight can force the heart to pump harder to supply the body with oxygenated blood.

Losing and managing not only reduces heart strain but lowers the risk of other health conditions and can lead to a longer, healthier life.

Alcohol Moderation and Smoke Cessation

Too much alcohol increases the risk of dehydration, which can consequently increase blood pressure. Smoking interferes with blood flow and oxygen to the brain and is a major risk factor high blood pressure and stroke.

So if deciding to drink, do so in a moderated amount. This is one serving for women per day and two servings for men. Make sure its consumption does not interfere with medications or health conditions, too. And if you smoke, there is no better time to quit.

DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. Mayo Clinic.

High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on September 13, 2016. Updated on July 22, 2020.


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